30 July 2009

The Crying Tree by Naseem Rakha

Flap Copy from ARC: "The quiet and contented life of Irene and Nate Stanley and their two children, Bliss and Shep, is turned on its head when Nate comes home one day to announce he's been offered a job as a deputy sheriff in Oregon. Irene fights her husband about moving ... she cannot shake her misgivings about the move ... They are settling into their life in Oregon's high desert when tragedy strikes. Fifteen-year-old Shep is brutally shot to death in their new home, and the family reels with the unspeakable loss ...

Irene waits, week after week, for justice; for the man who killed her son to be executed. Those weeks turn into months, and then years. All the while Irene and her famly become more alienated from one another and even themselves. Ultimately, faced with a growing sense of depression and isolation, ... Irene makes an extraordinary decision to write a letter to her son's killer on death row. What she doesn't expect is that he will write back and the two will engage in a secret correspondence for years."

In The Crying Tree Naseem Rakha tells the story of a family destroyed by tragedy and fueled by emotion and vengeance, a mother, father and daughter trying desperately to find a way to live beyond their loss, and failing miserably. Individual grief makes them strangers to one another, allowing secrets to lie dormant for years and forcing each to live alone within the family unit.

When the killer's execution is finally scheduled, Irene is faced with emotions she never expected - she hated this man so much, but through years of secret communication has come to view him differently. When their hidden relationship comes to light, other family secrets are also revealed (though I had guessed to big secret fairly early in the novel, I think Rahka does a wonderful job building momentum and keeping the reader interested until the end) and each family member must seek a new kind of forgiveness.

I'm labeling this book a must-read - the character development is compelling and real, the plot moves at a good pace and the widely varied emotions are portrayed with heart-wrenching accuracy. Rahka took a difficult story of loss and a political argument about the death penalty and melded them into a very human tale that forces the reader to stop and think. Four stars - read this book, give it to a friend, and then discuss!

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